I’ll start with a bit of a preface, which should serve to communicate some expectations I had before jumping on the Soul Rider. Bear with me….
As Jason mentioned, not all ~98mm underfoot all-mountain skis are created equal, made for the same level of skier, or suit the same riding style (though you might think that by reading a lot of manufacturers’ standard “powder-to-park” product descriptions).
The Soul Rider is a ski I’ve been looking forward to getting on for more than a season now. It’s obviously marketed toward the freestyle all-mountain crowd (like the Moment PB&J and Rossignol Scimitar), but I was still very excited to see where the Soul Rider stands in this “one-ski quiver” sub-genre. The last ski I reviewed in this all-mountain class was the Scimitar. It’s an awesome one-ski quiver that you’ll also want to consider if you’re in the market, and I was especially interested to see how the Soul Rider compared in two specific respects.
I was really impressed with the Scimitar’s versatility as an all-mountain tool. The full reverse camber profile makes for a ski that is incredibly intuitive and suits an impressive range of abilities and skiing styles. Yet there were two aspects of this design that I noticed (I don’t see these as faults at all, simply characteristics of the Scimitar): The ski wasn’t quite as energetic through carves as a ski with traditional camber might be, and its flat underfoot profile was not the most stable at high speed through tough, chopped conditions. The chop/crud performance was not horrible by any means, and really wasn’t much of a surprise considering the ski’s design—it just requires that an expert skier expect some of that “swimming” feeling when hauling through inconsistent or cut up conditions. (I don’t think an intermediate skier would even notice it.)
I thought those two slight tradeoffs with the Scimitar were relatively small prices to pay for the ski’s impressive versatility, and its still a great ski, well suited for a lot of people. Still, I was curious to see if the Soul Rider could offer some of the same nimble, and playful qualities of the Scimitar while maintaining more energy for carving and pop for jibbing around the mountain. So far, I’m inclined to think it does. (OK, extended preface over. On to the data.)
My time on the Soul Rider has been primarily on groomers. In Las Leñas, this meant very soft, spring slush conditions off the Vulcano lift. Jason and I had the the ski mounted at +3 from Nordica’s classic/traditional mount, which was -4cm from true center. There is no Nordica “factory” or “team” line (at least on the 11/12 Soul Rider we tested, which returns unchanged for 12/13). This is the mount point that I chose initially, and after experimenting with the -7 traditional mount I think this is where I would keep it (more on this in a bit).
While I haven’t been able to take the ski into any steeps like Jason did, I do feel I have a very good sense of how this ski does on groomers and in bumpy, wet slush, and can second much of what he has already said.
The first thing that struck me about the Soul Rider was just how quick it was edge to edge. Even in very soft, warm conditions where you might actually expect a lighter ski to get bogged down, tipping the skis over and getting them to bite into a carved turn was a breeze. As Jason mentioned, the Soul Rider sports a 18.5m sidecut radius, which seemed to work very well with a flex profile that struck me as even and moderate—certainly not soft, but not stiff or medium/stiff, either.
While making quick carves, nothing about the edge hold felt insufficient or worrisome on the soft groomed runs. I was able to really bend and work the ski through each carved turn even on fairly low-angle terrain. The snow in Las Leñas wasn’t the slightly firm, tacky corduroy ideal for really driving a ski through a carve, but I was still able to get a nice, fun snap from the Soul Rider. In this respect, the ski did seem a little more energetic than the Scimitar, which sacrifices some pop for ridiculously easy turn initiation, even at 5 mph.
Since Las Leñas I’ve had the chance to get the Soul Rider on some colder, faster groomers in Colorado. The ski does have some early rise in the tail, but I can’t say I’ve noticed any subsequent lack of stability while on edge as long as the snow is reasonably soft – with any amount of soft snow, the camber underfoot feels sufficient. In very icy, bulletproof conditions, the ski’s shorter effective edge becomes much more noticeable and carving confidently can be difficult, however controlled skidded turns are still impressively stable and predictable. (For these reasons I would not recommend the Soul Rider as an all-mountain carver to someone on the East Coast.)
The Soul Rider’s rocker profile in the tip and tail is relatively conservative, with a decently deep rocker line but only a small amount of splay. The skis remained nice and stable while making long, fast, but controlled smeary turns, and were able to plane nicely over small ridges and soft, consolidated piles of slush. I was a little surprised by how damp the Soul Rider was at higher speeds, especially given the conditions, its 97mm width, and a flex profile that seemed very forgiving initially.
The skis flex feels on the softer side, but it never felt flimsy, weak, or chattery to me (on edge, or in a skidded turn), as long as I maintained a light, more upright stance.
Like Jason, I also noticed that “breaking the tails loose at speed still didn’t offer the most comforting ride.” At -4 a light, more centered stance provides the best feel and feedback from the ski, but it is possible to overpower the shovels and wash the tails out after pitching the skis hard sideways to scrub speed. Also, the ski seems to lose some edge stability in long-radius carves, likely because of the more aggressive sidecut that makes it so fun at slower speeds. However, this isn’t quite the case with the ski mounted farther back at a traditional -6 or -7 cm. There the Soul Rider is more stable through faster turns in soft, consolidated snow, but the stability difference isn’t so dramatic that I would chose to mount the ski there. Personally I’d rather maintain a more balanced feel in the air and better switch carving performance (which, so far, I think Soul Rider can do well at -4).
At slower speeds, my stance/posture seemed less important, and the Soul Rider didn’t demand much in making slow, smeared turns in the soft slush. I wouldn’t say it felt quite as surfy as the Scimitar, but was still very intuitive and precise. Given how easy the ski is to maneuver and its forgiving but snappy flex, I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun in moguls (which either Jason or I will speak to in the Update)
For a do-it-all all-mountain ski that’s very easy to ski and work around at low speeds, the Soul Rider does just fine during slightly more aggressive, fast skiing, even at a progressive mount point. (Across the board, when not on edge the Soul Rider feels less “swimmy” than I found the Scimitar to be running bases flat or skidding through a turn in chop.) Advanced/expert skiers will just have to get used to feathering their speed and working with the skis’ softer flex and playful feel, rather than standing on them, expecting a stiffer flex that will bust through crud or firmer piles of snow at a high edge angle.